On the bald spot and through the strands of his scant pale hair could be seen glistening beads of sweat. “That’s not her name, by the way,” he said. Quirke did not understand. “I mean, it is her name, only she called herself something else. Laura – Laura Swan. It was sort of her professional name. She ran a beauty parlor, the Sliver Swan. That’s where she got the name – Laura Swan.” – from The Silver Swan, page 10 –
The Silver Swan is the second novel in the Quirke series written by John Banfield under his pseudonym Benjamin Black. Dysfunctional Dublin pathologist Quirke’s return appearance happens two years after solving the Christine Falls case. Finally sober, he is mourning the loss of his unrequited love Sarah and trying to make amends with his daughter when he receives a phone call from an old school friend whose wife’s body has been fished out of the dark waters near Dublin. The man requests that Quirke ignore the law and refrain from performing an autopsy to cover up the apparent suicide. But Deidre Hunt’s death is not as straight forward as it first appears, and Quirke once again finds himself embroiled in the dark side of human behavior. He is unable to let the mystery alone.
It was a postmortem he had performed on the body of another young woman that had led to the unraveling of the Judge’s web of secrets; did he want to become involved in another version of that? Should he not just let the death of Deirdre Hunt alone, and leave her husband in merciful ignorance? What did it matter that a woman had drowned herself? – her troubles were over now; why should her husband’s be added to? Yet even as he asked himself these questions Quirke was aware of the old itch to cut into the quick of things, to delve into the dark of what was hidden – to know. – from The Silver Swan, page 25 –
Banfield’s writing is dark and rich and The Silver Swan, like its prequel Christine Falls, reads more like literary fiction than straight genre mystery. Characters are well-developed and plot is secondary to the motivations of the characters. The story unravels through alternating point of view which gives the mystery greater depth and interest. Once again, I found myself not entirely liking Quirke who always seems to be struggling with ethical decisions, while unable to deal with his personal demons. But, despite this, Banfield’s strong prose engaged me in Quirke’s story. I found The Silver Swan less predictable and with more intriguing twists than its predecessor – just when I thought I had solved the mystery, the story took an unexpected turn which kept me guessing.
He flicked the stub of his cigarette over the embankment wall. A gull, deceived, dived after it. Nothing is what it seems. – from The Silver Swan, page 55 –
Both Christine Falls and its sequel The Silver Swan will appeal to those readers who enjoy a good mystery, but also appreciate literary fiction. Speaking for myself, I know I would not hesitate to pick up another thriller-mystery by this author.